Lady Dearing's Masquerade
This is a SuperRegency from Signet, which means it has a greater page count and more sensuality than your basic Regency, both of which Elena Greene puts to good use in Lady Dearing’s Masquerade.
The widowed Olivia, Lady Dearing, survived ten hellish years with her husband and now that her year of mourning is over, she is in London, rejoining society, renewing friendships, and having fun. As a lark she attends a masquerade ball as Cleopatra and has a marvelous time dancing, until an importunate Turk accosts her. A man dressed as Death rescues her; they dance, they share some sweet kisses, and then the thwarted Turk returns and causes a scene. Olivia’s identity is revealed in the scandal sheets and many scurrilous rumors concerning her seem to pop up almost overnight. She leaves London and retreats to her country home.
Sir Jeremy, nice guy extraordinaire and also recently out of mourning, had been coerced into attending the ball by his cousin. As Death, he was quite smitten with Cleopatra and searched for her in ballrooms for several months afterwards before giving up and devoting himself to good works.
Jeremy and Livvy have much in common, and both their marriages were devastatingly affected by the inability to have children. Livvy’s husband subjected her to all the medical “cures” for infertility known at the time, which, you may well imagine, were nightmarish. When she continued barren, his anger became more physical. Since his death, she has assuaged her longing for children by taking into her home four troubled children from London’s Foundling Hospital.
Jeremy was married to saint of a woman, who insisted on continuing to try for children through repeated miscarriages until she finally died from one. They both became very involved with the Foundling Hospital, Jeremy serving on its Board of Governors and his wife in spending time with the children. When the Board finds out that the Chairman, who doesn’t believe the rumors concerning the scandalous Lady Dearing, has placed children with her, Jeremy, of the spotless and incorruptible reputation, is sent to inspect her and the children.
Though it has been three years since the masquerade, Livvy instantly recognizes Jeremy and his voice, but he doesn’t know her – though he does recognize the instant attraction he feels for her. He makes repeated visits to scrutinize her and spend time with the children, and quickly sees that there is no need for concern regarding their care. But he continues to visit, partly because he enjoys the children, but mostly to spend time with Livvy, even though rumors about them are getting about and threatening his fundraising work for the new branch hospital. When he discovers that Livvy is his Cleopatra, nothing will keep him away.
I enjoyed Lady Dearing’s Masquerade very much. Ms. Greene makes good use of flashbacks to highlight events in Livvy and Jeremy’s past marriages that affect their actions and feelings today with each other. Livvy is very wary of remarriage, given her horrible experience, but she is even more unwilling to jeopardize Jeremy’s work because of her sullied reputation. Jeremy discovered that it is not easy being married to a saint, and much prefers the flawed Livvy, if only he could convince her to take the chance. The scenes with the children are very good; they seemed real children, though occasionally they strayed into Too Precious mode, but not often. However, if you are a person who dislikes children in their romances, this may not be the book for you.
What didn’t work? The whole rumor mill back-story didn’t quite work. I didn’t see that the ton would still be so interested in her after all those years – the continued condemnation seemed overdone. And the villains were a bit over the top. But over all, this was a terrific read, and I recommend it.